Friday, March 1, 2002
ConsCom seeks to increase fees and fines
The conservation commission's bylaw sub-committee recommended a two-step approach to revision of the town's Wetland Protection Bylaw at the board's February 14 meeting. The ad hoc group consisting of members Jonathan Beakley and Christine Kavalauskas called for changes to the fee structure and fines as specified in the present bylaw and inclusion of language which would bring local law into conformance with current provisions of the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act. These items are expected to appear in a warrant article to be presented at the Spring Town Meeting.
A second proposal that would request expansion of the commission's jurisdiction over wetland resources will be held for action at a subsequent town meeting. This decision was made when it was learned that the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions is in the process of publishing its recommendations for the strengthening of local bylaws.
Present filing fees don't cover costs
An article containing both proposals was defeated at the 2001 Town Meeting, primarily due to opposition to greater ConsCom jurisdiction over isolated wetlands and vernal pools. However, the town's present fiscal constraints and the fact that Carlisle's filing fees are starkly lower than those of surrounding towns, convinced Beakley and Kavalaukas that changes there would be accepted this time around. Pointing out that the present filing fees don't begin to cover the actual cost of processing the applications, Beakley characterized the situation as "the town actually subsidizing the development of its natural resources."
Under the committee's recommended bylaw provisions the existing specification of a fixed $25 filing fee for all types of permits would be replaced by reference to "the rules and regulations promulgated by the commission." Rate changes now and in the future could then be set by the board following a mandated public hearing, thus eliminating the need to return to Town Meeting each time conditions change. The schedule of fines for violations would remain in the bylaw but would be increased in certain categories.
Beakley stressed that the new fees to be established by the commission "must be commensurate with our actual costs and in no way punitive." Conservation administrator Sylvia Willard was asked to develop an hour-by-hour estimate of the average amount of time and money required to research the thoroughness and accuracy of the various types of applications and to process the paperwork involved. With that information in hand, the sub-committee planned to propose a new fee structure at its February 28 meeting.
Repairs to Greenough house
in lieu of rent
Following up on last month's discussion with Paul Booth, who has been serving as an active house-sitter for the small but somewhat dilapidated farmhouse and charming old barn on the Greenough property, the commission talked about getting some much-needed repair work done in lieu of rent. Booth, a carpenter by trade, has told them that he would be happy to work on the house, but doesn't feel he can undertake major repairs without a contract.
The commission, which has been seeking a long-term solution to the serious maintenance problem, is all too cognizant of the time and legal contortions involved in framing an extended lease on conservation land. In the meantime, and given the town's financial straits, commissioners felt Booth should be expected to do some work in lieu of rent. Willard informed them that, under the state's Procurement Act, the town can contract for work under a $5,000 limit without having to go out to bid.
The commission already possesses a list of needed repairs together with cost estimates prepared by Booth two years ago. Member John Lee suggested that building inspector Bob Koning be asked to recommend what repairs under $5,000 were most urgent. Booth could then be contracted to do an identified job in return for living at the property for a given period and using the barn in his business.
Willard noted that Booth has done the town a valuable service just by being on-site and protecting the property from vandalism "He has a history connected to the property and obviously cares about it," she said. In the past the carpenter has expressed interest in a long-term contract for renovation of the property and might well be a bidder, once the commission clears the way for a long-term solution.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito